Roses are red
Neilson needs a spark
Will Hearts ever win
At McDiarmid Park?
We are exactly ten years and one day since Hearts last emerged victorious from an away match at St Johnstone.
Valentine’s Day, 2012. Paulo Sergio’s side equalised with a disputed late penalty in the Scottish Cup replay before winning it in extra-time.
Since that vital victory on the way to the 2012 Scottish Cup final, Hearts’ record at McDiarmid Park reads: played 14, won 0, drawn 7, lost 7, goals scored 14, goals conceded 21. All seven defeats have been by a single goal; five of them finishing 1-0 to the hosts.
A lot of the results can be explained simply: Hearts weren’t any good at the time.
Several senior players, and Sergio himself, departed after the 2012 final. With little income to spend on replacements – the club would go into administration a year later – a number of young players were promoted to the first team before they were ready. The presence of Dundee in the top flight meant they were never in danger of relegation, though they did struggle at the foot of the table before eventually finishing tenth. St Johnstone, meanwhile, landed in third. Getting a 2-2 draw in December of that year, therefore, can be looked upon as a decent result.
The following campaign was even worse. Administration depleted the squad further and they were eventually relegated. After defeat to St Johnstone on the opening day, Hearts were able to come back from 3-1 down to earn a draw in January.
The best Hearts team since 2012, or at least the most consistent, was in season 2015/16 after winning promotion back to the top flight. They only played once in Perth in four league games, drawing 0-0 after Juanma was sent off 28 minutes in.
It’s the following campaign that’s the real outlier. Four games at McDiarmid; all of them defeats. Two of them did come under the stewardship of Ian Cathro, though, which is explanation in itself.
The next two seasons saw one game in each, both draws. The first was a 0-0 with a team in flux following Cathro’s exit and Craig Levein’s return to the dugout, while the 2-2 result in 2018/19 came just a few weeks after a spate of injuries derailed a highly promising campaign.
Fast forward to the next term and Hearts were back to being useless and in a relegation battle once more. Saints won 1-0 in Levein’s last game. This preceded the 3-3 draw which highlighted both the best (scoring goals; attacking play) and worst (bad defending; Joel Pereira) of Daniel Stendel’s time in charge.
The 1-1 draw earlier this season, when Robbie Neilson’s side paid the price for a slow start and missing top goalscorer Liam Boyce, was one of the few occasions over the years when Hearts could be considered obvious favourites for a match in Perth.
It’s not an excuse, it’s just an acknowledge that the travails at McDiarmid have mirrored the journey the club has been on over the same stretch of time.
With things now in a much better place and the future looking promising, it’s time to finally end this unwanted run.